A New Paradigm for PR


     It is safe to say that in the last 48 months all of us in the classical music industry have experienced an earthquake of change in the traditional, tried-and-true models of doing business. As we watch these models crumble, we scan musicalamerica.com, artsjournal.com, and other sites for reassurance, enlightenment and inspiration, hoping to learn from the successes and failures of others. At this point, we can say one thing with assurance: the classical music world is not changing. It has changed.

       In a veritable riot of democratization, DIY Nation has stormed the gatekeepers of Western culture and proclaimed . .
--to the publisher: "We don't care if you don't like our manuscript. We'll publish it ourselves."
--to the music critic: "We don't care what you think, we have our own opinions - read our blog."
--to the record executive: "We don't care if you don't like our demo. We'll release it ourselves. And oh - we made a deal with RayBan. From now on, every time you put on your sunglasses, you'll hear our latest single. "

       This Web-based upheaval represents a delicious populist revolt undreamed of in even the 1960s. While it brings a welcome and liberating new world of cultural access, it also leaves big grown-up issues like intellectual property rights and the just remuneration of artists still largely unresolved. Another perhaps less anticipated by-product of this sea change is the ever-growing and peculiar notion that there is no such thing as expertise.

       In the midst of this environment those of us in the arts must uphold a level of excellence which reflects that of our artists, while developing tech-savvy strategies, and, most importantly, letting go of time-honored practices - like exclusivity -  that are no longer supportable given the realities of today's Web access.

       From my perspective, at a certain point it became obvious that the paradigm for disseminating information had to change. The Web is the information retrieval system of choice, and the Web has an insatiable appetite for video footage. So while I have continued to pursue my established PR business, I have created a separate new division called videocontentnow (VCN). VCN creates videos designed to be used by artists, their record companies, management team, and presenters to tell the artists' story and promote their performances. These are not simply performance videos, which many of us have used for years, as we have used audio clips on our Web sites. These are electronic press kits (EPKs), which have been used sparingly for promotional purposes in the past, but with tight restrictions.

       The advantages of EPKs as promotional tools are many: (1) They humanize the artist, showing her in casual situations. (2) We produce both a longer piece of five to nine minutes and short clips of the artist discussing his feelings about specific pieces in his itinerary as many as three years out; thus the EPK's shelf life is three years. (3) When possible, there is performance footage incorporated in the EPK that can be used separately as B-roll. (4) EPKs are green. No more sending out two-pocket portfolios stuffed with bios, schedules, press clips, 8x10 glossies; with EPKs, we can post them on our Web sites and attach them to e-mails.

       Producing video footage and posting it on the Web is not without its challenges. Here, the old business models hamper our ability to respond creatively to a Web-based reality. Some organizations don't understand the advantages of freely disseminating promotional video - orchestras, concert venues, music publishers, and record companies often still believe they can and should keep a stranglehold on the flow of information. The truth is that if they try to place restrictions on high-quality video, the only video footage available on the Web will be the grainy, wobbly footage taken by somebody's intern and posted on YouTube - regardless of their rules and regulations.

       Here's my suggestion to one and all: Let's work together to create high-quality footage that shows all parties to their best advantage, and post it without restriction to everyone's Web site. It's no longer possible to prevent video footage from being posted on the Web, so we might as well face that fact and collaborate to create a product worthy of our artists. Audiences believe in the romance of the DIY ethos, but they will always prefer the finish and craftsmanship offered by professionals. It's our responsibility to provide it.    

-Kathryn King

Trends / Musical America Directory 2011 


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